I was wandering around the Internet on Sunday, looking for inspiration, when I came across Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge. The idea was to write an event from your life but add a fictional twist to it. I decided to take something involving one of our cats as a starting point and this story – Cag: An Almost True Story – is the end result.
Jacob first realised his ghoul was missing when he went outside to give him his favourite meal – Roast Prime Rib with a Red Wine Jus and a side of Rosemary Encrusted Lamb’s Brain. It was early evening, the air was beginning to cool and normally Cag would already be hanging out by the patio door, waiting for Jacob to arrive, but tonight there was no sign of him. The garden was empty.
Red wine jus splashed the front of Jacob’s jacket as he ran round the corner of the bungalow to the main gate. He was convinced someone must have opened it and let Cag out but the gate was still closed and the bolts were still drawn. There were a handful of new gouges in the wood where Cag had tried to claw his way to freedom but nothing that would explain his absence.
As Jacob walked back into the garden, he heard a soft, somewhat pitiful moaning from somewhere near the back wall. Relieved, he placed the steaming bowl of food on the patio and trotted across the lawn. The relief quickly evaporated as he realised that somehow Cag had managed to get over the wall and into the alley behind the house.
As Jacob neared the wall, Cag moaned again, louder this time.
“Shhh,” said Jacob, “stop calling attention to yourself.”
Jacob chewed his lip. Cag was unlicensed and if the neighbourhood watch caught him there’d be hell to pay. And fines. Thankfully, the gate to the alley would be locked so Cag couldn’t get out onto the street but he’d be clearly visible to anyone looking into the alley and, obviously, Jacob couldn’t risk bringing him out that way. The only way to get Cag home would be to bring him back over the wall.
Jacob retrieved his ladder and a battered old cushion from the grey plastic shed in the corner of the garden. Then he propped the ladder against the lowest point of the wall and climbed up. The top of the wall was covered with a rainbow of broken glass; a largely unsuccessful attempt to discourage thieves from stealing beer from the pub next door. Putting the cushion onto the least lethal looking shards of glass, Jacob climbed gingerly on top of the wall.
Cag was directly below him. Jacob’s daughter, Susan, had been playing dress up again and Cag was wearing the bumblebee costume they’d bought him for Halloween a couple of years earlier; the yellow stripes turned a grubby orange by the ravages of playtime. Cag looked up at Jacob and moaned forlornly.
Jacob hauled the ladder up and over the wall, thankful it was aluminium, not wood. As he rested it against the wall he lost his balance. Without thinking, he reached out steady himself and speared his hand on a very attractive purple beer bottle.
Jacob yelled, then yelled again as he saw the ladder slipping away from him. He lunged forward, his hand reaching it just as it began to topple into the alley. Jacob settled the ladder into position again, his heart pounding and the theme tune from his wife’s favourite medical drama playing in his head.
The cut on his hand wasn’t too bad, he’d clean it up once Cag was back in the garden; whenever that was. In the alley below, Cag was staring at the ladder and showing no signs of climbing up.
Jacob tapped the side of the ladder. Cag looked up, moaned again, stepped forward, then clamped his mouth on the fifth rung of the ladder and began to suck. Jacob sagged.
It took Jacob seven minutes to clamber down the ladder and maneuver his way around Cag who was eagerly trying to clamber between the rungs of the ladder to reach the remains of a sandwich he’d noticed lying on the floor. Five minutes later, as Jacob tried for the fourth time to demonstrate correct ladder climbing technique, the neighbourhood watch bell rang three times.
“Awww, crap!” said Jacob. That meant Danny Brown would be checking the alley in less than five minutes.
In desperation, Jacob pushed Cag towards the ladder. By some scientific miracle, the synapses in Cag’s brain fired with sufficient accuracy to guide his feet onto the rungs. Jacob placed his shoulder under Cag’s backside and pushed. He felt his stomach churn at the smell and for a moment he thought he was going to throw up. Then Cag began to move. Slowly, step by step, he padded up the ladder until he reached the top. When he got there…he stopped.
Jacob glanced down the alley. He could see the street and so far it was empty but he could hear Danny’s heavy leather boots stomping along the pavement; he’d be at the entrance to the alley any moment. In desperation Jacob threw himself up the ladder, grabbed Cag by the shoulders and pushed.
Cag let out a startled grunt and fell forward, arms flailing. As he fell, the bumblebee suit caught on a particularly long slice of brown glass leaving Cag hanging from the wall. Jacob reached towards his ankle to free him but as he did there was a moist ripping sound and Cag’s ankle gave way, leaving his foot hanging from the top of the wall.
There was a wet thud as Cag hit the ground.
By the time Jacob had made it onto the wall, retrieved the ladder and the errant foot and made his way back into the garden, Cag had discovered his dinner and was happily tearing his way through the beef.
Jacob looked down at the foot he was carrying. Never mind, he’d reattach that tomorrow.
Just in case anyone’s worried, neither I nor (more importantly) the cat were actually harmed during this adventure (she did get a claw caught on the glass but I just unhooked it – no three footed cats here). There wasn’t a neighbourhood watch patrolman either. Or a cat license (missing or otherwise). The glass was real though. And the cushion. And the theme music.[The article Cag: An Almost True Story by Philip Harris originally appeared on Solitary Mindset on February 21st, 2013]
Copyright Philip Harris 2013 – All Rights Reserved